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A dream that came true

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S.R. SURYANARAYAN

Chronicle of how Padukone became a world champion in badminton

TOUCH PLAY The Prakash Padukone Story: Dev S. Sukumar; Pub. by Badminton Inc. 123, Kalathur Layout, Jalahalli, Bangalore-560013. Rs. 300.Badminton in India, at least from the 1970s till the early 1990s, has been the story of Prakash Padukone. His rise coincided with the best phase, and when he began to fade out, there was none really to take on the mantle. True, Syed Modi, until his premature death, held promise. In fact, Modi was touted as a talent, which was a mix of stylist Suresh Goel and the effectiveness of Prakash. Vimal Kumar picked up many a thing from his idol but before long he came more to be known for his bold stand against the Badminton Association of India (BAI).

An ideal subject

In every sense then Prakash Padukone is an ideal subject for a biography of a man who made it big in a sport, which in India was generally hard pressed for space in the media. Still like Viswanathan Anand to chess, Prakash was to badminton, wholly influential to make people sit up and, read and watch his exploits. The surprising aspect is that it had taken so long for a book to be written on Prakash. To that extent the author has done a service to the fans with his research on the maestro from Malleswaram in Bangalore. Right from the origin of the surname `Padukone', the astrological prediction that `Prakash' will shine like the name itself, to the final days of his active career and his BPL academy everything has been taken note of. At times though an element of repetitiveness is unmistakable. It is a story of an unassuming player who dared to dream big and worked hard to make that come true. What is more he did not allow his academic career to slip in the process. True unlike most from middle class families, Prakash was able to convince his parents that he needed to quit a secure Bank job to pursue the dream of becoming a badminton champion. How much all this in the end transformed his life from just a Bangalorean to a world champion is in the realm of a fairy tale story.

Influences

The author has chronicled Prakash's life, the tournaments he played, won and lost and the players he had confronted and influenced him like Rudy Hartono, Morten Frost, Liem Swie King, Han Jian, Svend Pri, Sugiarto and Pongoh. The tensions and emotions connected with the All England victory in 1980 and the World Cup in 1981 have been well brought out, as was his maiden triumph in the senior national championship (1972). His life in Denmark, the moments of solitude first and then life with Ujjala are well documented. Yet one gets the feeling that it is not the story of Prakash Padukone alone but of badminton in India in his times. Syed Modi, Vimal Kumar, Gopi Chand, the politics in BAI, well everything gets a focus. Only in the end, one is left wondering if Prakash really made an impact to the sport, considering the continuing low-key state of badminton in India. Can we say that of chess after Anand's exploits?


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